Friday, October 20, 2017

Unconverted Power Plays Doom Stars in 3-2 Shootout Loss

Rocco Grimaldi scores the winner. (Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
In the first of 14 games against the San Antonio Rampage in the '17-'18 season, the Texas Stars fell in the shootout 3-2. The tension of the the rivalry was already evident with a pretty chippy game including several post-whistle scuffles. The game would end with 75 penalty minutes total.

"It always seems to be chippy with this rivalry," said Justin Dowling, who has played in many of these rivalry games. "We've played these guys for so long now, and there are several guys there from last year. You build these rivalries not only with the team, but mini rivalries with players on the ice and guys you line up against all the time."

Texas wasn't able to capitalize on their two power play opportunities in the first period, but they outshot San Antonio 12-4 and won 60% of their face-offs. The Stars were only able to post a 15.6% power play percentage against the Rampage last season, and that trend continued in this game as they were unable to cash in on the man advantage. In the end, they went 0-for-5, including a major power play.

Coach Laxdal said as much after the game. "The difference was not scoring on the power play. We generated a lot of shots, but we didn't make them pay when they were in the box."

In the first period, Curtis McKenzie scored from an awkward angle on the left circle after Denis Gurianov bobbled the puck to him to give Texas the first goal of the game. San Antonio forward Tage Thompson immediately answered with a goal of his own to take the energy out of the building on their first recorded shot.

The Stars drew another penalty early in the second period, and Jason Dickinson tipped in a point shot from Denis Gurianov after several seconds of beautiful passing with extended zone time. Impressively, it was Dickinson's sixth point in the last four games.

The Rampage goaltender Spencer Martin had to face several quality shots and made critical saves to keep San Antonio in the game, particularly in the second frame.

Stars center and locker room leader Justin Dowling had high praise for the netminder: "I thought we got lots of good looks tonight. We were moving the puck around well. It was just one of those things--the puck not going in the net and their goalie playing really well. He's been in the NHL, and he's been an all-star in this league. So he's a great goalie. I think we've got to get more bodies to the net, create more second chances off of rebounds, and I think when we get get the opportunity we've got to bear down."

The Stars would end up out-shooting the Rampage 28-7 through two periods, but San Antonio took advantage of their opportunities. On their fifth shot of the game late in the second period defenseman Mason Geertsen beat Mike McKenna high stick side from the left circle after a pretty cross ice pass for his first goal in the AHL.

Jason Dickinson drew a five minute major penalty by getting leveled hard into the boards to which the Stars took issue. It resulted in Andrew Bodnarchuk dropping the gloves with Nicolas Meloche and decisively taking him to the ground.

The second period ended with a 2-2 tie and a total of 62 penalty minutes distributed across both teams. Texas wasn't short-handed until the third period and nearly scored on a 2-on-1 breakaway.

San Antonio amassed most of their shot total in the third period. They had a golden opportunity to win the game on the power play with 2:40 to go and would fire a shot from the slot which bounced off the pipe. Unable to clear the zone, the Stars' first PK unit had to stay on the ice for the duration of the penalty and were visibly exhausted by the end.

Laxdal noted, "In the third period, we knew we were going to get some penalty kills. [San Antonio] took over the game a little bit, but we managed back the last ten."

Both teams earned equal zone time in the overtime period, which featured several impressive defensive plays that ultimately took the game to a shootout. San Antonio scored two out of three of their opportunities to put it away.

Texas plays San Antonio again tomorrow night in Cedar Park, the second game of their three-in-three weekend.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Hintz-Gurianov
Dickinson-Morin-Ully
Dries-Dowling-Flynn
French-Markison-Laberge

Heatherington-Regner
Mangene-Bayreuther
Bodnarchuk-Hansson

McKenna

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Rallo, McNeill, Fyten, Bystrom (scratch)
Elie (call-up)

Tonight's attendance was 4,442.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. San Antonio - October 20 2017

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